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Alameda: Smoking in doorways

There is almost no time you can walk by the Lemon Tree on Santa Clara Avenue and not get a face full of smoke. Step through the door of some of our nicest local cafes and you will, from time to time, walk through a plume of smokey air. In order to prevent that unpleasant health hazard, many jurisdictions have passed ordinances disallowing smoking in public spaces. California state law, for example, prohibits smoking within 20 feet of the doorways of public buildings. And right now Martinez is considering a host of laws governing smoking in public spaces, including bans on smoking within 20-feet of any enclosed area where smoking is already prohibited as well as at parks, bus stops and public events.

Straight from Wikipedia (for your easy perusal) here is a sampling of bans on smoking in effect in California:

Belmont, October 9, 2007, banned in parks and other public places, as well as inside apartments and condominiums.

Berkeley, March 26, 2008, banned smoking all commercially zoned sidewalks

Burbank, April, 2007, banned in most public places including outdoor dining and shopping areas, parks, service lines and within 20 feet of all building entrances/exits.

Calabasas, 2006, banned in all indoor and outdoor public places, except for a handful of scattered, designated outdoor smoking areas in town. Believed to be the strictest ban in the United States.

Los Angeles, 2007, banned in all city parks.

San Diego, July 11, 2006, banned smoking at all City of San Diego beaches and parks, including all beaches from La Jolla to Sunset Cliffs.

San Jose, October 2007, banned in all city parks.

You can check out Wikipedia’s list of smoking bans from around the country here.

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Alameda life, without owning a car

I wrote about my family’s no-car experience in my column last week, Car-free and OK. And, as with most everything that humans do, I am not to first to give this sort of endeavor a try. You can read about other people’s experiences with reducing car travel:

Chad Jones: Living car-free in the Bay Area

Joe Rodriguez: How and why I became—and have remained—car free

Mountain View family trades cars for bikes, enjoys life more

Carless in Sacramento (by choice)

You can also read the column I wrote my family’s our experience back in August when we first sold our cars. That one is called, Kicking the habit of using a car.

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Helicopters over Alameda in the wee hours

This time it has to do with two closed lanes on 880 near High Street and maybe ?? the memorial later today at the Coliseum for the four Oakland police officers slain last week.

At 5:30 a.m., 5:50 a.m. 6:45 a.m. the helicopter noise goes on!

Apparently, there has been some effort made to curtail the low-flying, noise-making beasts over Oakland and Alameda. But, according to this article by Angela Woodall, not much progress has been made. From Woodall, here’s the lay of the land which allows the disruptive noise to persist:

...The majority of all complaints the FAA receives are about noise. But the agency only handles air-safety-related complaints, not grievances about noise. Those should go to the municipality, FAA officials said.

But Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) said air-traffic noise complaints cannot be handled by the city.

Oh well, no one can enforce any regulations. But we can ask:

Nadel said she met last year with pilots from all the major Bay Area news stations, FAA official David Smith, a staff member from the office of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, because helicopters were more prevalent than usual in West Oakland in the aftermath of the MacArthur Maze collapse.

Nadel said the pilots pledged to try to be sensitive within the constraints of being forced to fly low by air traffic controllers to facilitate airplane traffic and their news directors’ orders to get the precise shot they need at the precise moment they ask for it, which can require them to hover for 15 minutes or longer.

Basically, we here on the ground are at the mercy of some newsdirector’s ‘need’ for a particular shot. But, this morning, we already know two lanes are closed on 880, and we know there’s going to be a memorial later. Do we need to hover for hours? Perhaps the reporting dollars might be better spent on the ground investigating the Oakland social and political forces that led some people to celebrate as a hero the man who killed the four police officers last week. Perhaps that is a more important story than the lanes closed this on 880 due to a construction this morning?

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Very exciting Alameda City Council Show last night

Luckily, even though I started watching the show late (a bit after 10 p.m.) and stopped when council took a five minute break at 11:30 p.m. (they finally adjourned at 12:16 a.m.), I still got to catch some action.

The owners of 1150 Bay Street—Gold Coast!—have planned an extensive and what sounds like tasteful and green-friendly update of their home, with the aim to restore many of the original elements of the poorly-maintained house. The problem? They wanted to build a porch on the front. And the problem with that? Not actually anything, legally speaking: the proposed porch is well within the 20-foot required set back in the City of Alameda. The problem, then? Continue Reading

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Michele Ellson on discussion about Alameda Point development

If you aren’t visiting Michele Ellson’s The Island blog on a regular basis, you should be. She’s issuing daily reports on all things Alameda. Yesterday she posted an editorial comment on the recently-launched campaign by a group called “Save our City! Alameda,” which opposes development at Alameda Point. (You can watch that group’s ad here.) Ellson looked into the facts and figures presented in the spot—you can read what she found here. And, yesterday, she posted this call for reasoned debate about development in Alameda:

Our Island is facing its biggest issue in a generation, the redevelopment of the former Naval Air Station Alameda. The issues around the redevelopment are complex, and the ramifications of any development or lack thereof are huge. We need to critically examine SunCal’s proposal and any viable alternatives, and we need someone who can honestly and respectfully outline any concerns.

What we have instead is Save Our City! Alameda, which launched an all-out assault on the plan this week based on a conflation of facts and outright misinformation, with the offer of a nice-sounding but largely undeveloped idea to turn the site into another Presidio as an alternative to SunCal’s development plan.

You can read Ellson’s whole comment here.

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This Saturday: Planting daffodils near the Fruitvale Bridge

If you’d like to join a group of Alamedans and Oaklanders planting daffodils on the Oakland side of the Fruitvale Bridge (because, as you likely know, that’s one heck of an untended area) they’ll be a group out there working this coming Saturday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to noon. They’ll be meeting between 880 and the Fruitvale Bridge, near East 7th Street. I’m sure they’ll be easy to spot. Participants are advised to bring garden gloves and tools if they have them, wear work clothes, and be ready to plant. The event is sponsored by the Fruitvale Bike Station, the City of Oakland and Keep Oakland Beautiful.

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Bike Share Alameda?

One of the things that causes me confusion these days is how we Americans/Alamedans can absorb almost daily doses of really bad environmental news and do so little to alter our behaviors. Even here in liberal/relatively-environmentally-aware Alameda we seem to be resistant—sometimes even hostile—to modifying our transportation-related behavior. But, thinking outside of our regular boxes, there certainly are options. By way of example, Sunday’s New York Times had a piece about European bike-sharing programs:

In increasingly green-conscious Europe, there are said to be only two kinds of mayors: those who have a bicycle-sharing program and those who want one…In Barcelona, streets during rush hour are lined with commuters and errand-goers on the bright red bicycles of Bicing, the city’s program, which began 18 months ago. Bicing offers 6,000 bicycles from 375 stands, which are scattered every few blocks; the bikes seem to be in constant motion.

Though bike-sharing programs are taking off in Europe, in the United States Continue Reading

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Alameda school pesticide policy

Michele Ellson of The Island has a post up about the Alameda Unified School District‘s pesticide use policy and what Laura DiDonato, a parent who serves on the committee that created the policy, says is the district’s violation of its own rules.

Apparently, in 2001 AUSD approved a pest management policy in order to accord with California law which called for the use of pesticides only in cases of emergency, but has recently stopped following it. According to DiDonato, California law requires school districts to have a registry of parents who wish to be notified when pesticides are going to be sprayed, to post warning signs before and after spraying, and also keep records of pesticide use for public inspection. But DiDonato told The Island that only the only rule that is being followed is the one that requires general notification about the possibility of pesticide use. Ellson wrote about that notification a while back.